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Brian H. Hough for AWS Community Builders

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Top Highlights from AWS' re:Invent 2020 Conference for Innovators & Builders

AWS Community Builders @ re:Invent

Since becoming an AWS Community Builder on the Data, Databases & Analytics team this Fall, I have often explained the experience to friends, family, and colleagues as one of drinking water from a fire hose. I had known that cloud computing was rapidly transforming how we build, develop, and deploy software, but I did not know what this pace felt like at center of a company like Amazon Web Services.

AWS' Community Builders program is fantastic for so many reasons, but specifically in how they offer technical resources, mentorship, networking opportunities, and exclusive trainings to a global team of AWS enthusiasts, emerging thought leaders, and developers.

From learning about how to deploy AI/ML models in the cloud with SageMaker and DeepComposer, to securely encrypting and storing data in the cloud, this community continues to inspire and push each other to new heights. It might not be possible to learn everything, but we all certainly try as Community Builders 😊

Especially working from home and being remote, there's no better use of extra time than these types of "drinking water from a fire hose" experiences, such as going to AWS' re:Invent virtual conference this year. The entire programming was seamless and I was blown away but the ingenuity, precision, and organization that went into planning the conference. The AWS team and their sponsored partners have done a standout job of making the virtual experience welcoming, collaborative, and interactive β€” something that is quite hard to coordinate in a remote setting.

I have received so much value from the sessions I attended over the past few weeks and I wanted to share the highlights for anyone who might be interested in learning more about devops, the cloud, serverless computation, and app development.

Let me know what you think and learned about from these sessions! πŸ‘‡

βœ… Week One's Top Highlights

🌟 Building for the Future with AWS Databases

Shawn Bice β€” Vice President, Databases, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • Data is at the center of all apps, software, and systems; and because of this, companies must use data effectively and efficiently to build a foundation for future innovation.
  • With a strong data foundation, you stand the best chance to overcome the unexpected and innovate in new ways as the future continues to digitally transform.
  • Considering the transition from on-premises systems to the cloud, it used to take months to get hardware to experiment with ideas or building a monolith application couldn't be easily serviced or scaled, and infrastructure sizing mistakes could delay projects by months. Thanks to the cloud, data architectures and systems can be experimented and iterated on near instantly, at scale.

🌟 Getting Started with AWS Identity Services

Becky Weiss β€” Senior Principal Engineer, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • An authentication and authorization strategy should include an (1) organization that corresponds to the customer; (2) a management account that pays the bills for these accounts; and (3) identity and access management via service control policies.
  • Someone is authenticated via AWS' IAM (identity access management) service which includes two kinds of principles: IAM users and IAM roles.
  • You can get started right away with AWS' Single Sign-On solution (SSO), which will let you create a user pool directly in your AWS environment

🌟 How Accelerates Innovation with Serverless

Sheen Brisals β€” AWS Serverless Hero & Senior Engineering Manager, The LEGO Group, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • By LEGO implementing the circuit breaker pattern with AWS Step Functions, the company can manage failure message replays with state machine.
  • LEGO uses Amazon EventBridge to send back-in-stock notifications right to the customer, thanks to the power of AWS and the cloud.
  • A single EventBridge event contains multiple feedback events, allowing LEGO to email feedback event streams with batching.

🌟 How Disney+ Scales Globally on Amazon DynamoDB

Mark Roper β€” Senior Product Manager, DynamoDB, AWS
Attilio Giue β€” Director of Content Discovery, Disney+

Key lessons included:

  • Disney+ is one of the world's largest online video streaming platforms, and delivers its near limitless library of digital content to over 60.5 million subscribers, thanks to Amazon DynamoDB.
  • Disney+'s Content Discovery team leverages DynamoDB global tables to scale and deliver features like Continuous Watching, Watchlist, and Personalized Recommendations because of AWS' easily scalable database structures in the cloud.
  • DynamoDB allows the global Disney+ team to enable regional expansions of content and provide this content on-demand instead of a solely provisioned mode.

βœ… Week Two's Top Highlights

🌟 The Pragmatic Cloud Developer

Colm MacCΓ‘rthaigh β€” Senior Principal Engineer, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • Infrastructure is not the thing β€” it is just a means to the thing. It is the fundamental blueprint to build the house, but we cannot lose sight of the house that we still need to build.
  • The trade-offs to consider as builders and developers are four key parameters that we must balance: (1) availability, (2) scalability, (3) productivity, and (4) cost.
  • So what makes the most sense to focus on? Colm recommends focusing on: security scanning and patching; working backups and tested restore; resilience and redundancy; and serverless.

🌟 Using Amazon QLDB as a System-of-Trust Database for Core Business Apps

Eric Kramer β€” Principal Product Manager, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • Amazon QLDB is applying an immutable and distributed process for data provenance and cryptographic verifiability for implementing systems of records with data integrity and verification as a priority.
  • With Amazon QLDB, business applications can leverage scalability (event-driven distributed systems), flexibility (flexible document data models for NoSQL and document databases), consistency (relational database transaction processing), and built-in data integrity (for immutable append-only databases for blockchain and cryptography).
  • Thanks to an immutable ledger database, business applications can leverage auditing databases, event sourcing, transactional systems of records, and an alternative to blockchain to store cryptographically verifiable state and changes with a centralized authority model.

🌟 AWS 2020 Modernization & DevOps Jam

Hosted by Data Dog, VMware, and Netapp

Key lessons included:

  • AWS CodePipeline provides visibility across your application code with numerous stages, such as source, analyze, and build. DevOps can play an important role in the systems of your production workload; for example, enforcing linting practices in the pipeline without increasing build time.
  • For an e-commerce company that is entirely serverless via containers that spans multiple components and microservices, a platform like Datadog can identify and isolate issues within the application and infrastructure to mitigate errors, identify server-side and client-side DNS issues, and more.
  • It can be all too easy to blame the network, but with a platform like VMware's NSX Advanced Load Balancer, you can identify issues within your application, increase its resiliency quickly and easily, all without ever taking the application down for maintenance.

βœ… Week Three's Top Highlights

🌟 How Venmo Responded to the Demand for Contactless Payment on Amazon Aurora

Nick Ciubotariu β€” CTO, Venmo
Pubali Sen β€” Senior Solutions Architect, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • Venmo is a born-in-the-cloud payment platform running on AWS, and as an early adopter of cloud-based technologies, this helped the innovative company fast-track its business use cases.
  • Venmo's payment volume has grown 9X over the years and is supported by Amazon Aurora's ease-of-use and seamless scale for its 6 TB+ of data while enabling up to 1,000 TPS.
  • Thanks to AWS database solutions (Amazon VPC, EC2, S3, Aurora, Transit Gateway, AWS WAF, DynamoDB, Lambda, EventBridge, SQS, Kenesis, and Amazon EMR to name a few), Venmo is able to pilot new features lightning-fast, stream users' data directly to them, and bring their ingenious contactless payment features to production sooner and with less administrative work.

🌟 AmazonDynamoDB Advanced Design Patterns

Rick Houlihan β€” Senior Practice Manager, AWS DynamoDB

Key lessons included:

  • Global tables are an ideal use-case for high volume replication and low latency replications.
  • Summary analytics are key for streams and Lambda aggregation methods. DynamoDB Global Replication is fully managed, active-active, and multi-region that enables cross region replication in less than 2 seconds.
  • A technique that can reduce costs is write sharding for selective reads. Partition / shard key is used for building an unordered hash index and this allows tables to be partitioned for global scale.

🌟 Deep Dive on PostgreSQL Databases on Amazon RDS

Jim Mlodgenski β€” Senior Database Engineer, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • If you're looking for a database to use in your software, PostgreSQL is an open-source technology that's rapidly growing in popularity due to its abundance of features, vibrant community, and compatibility with commercial databases used today.
  • Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service) is a managed regional database that can plug into numerous database engines β€” such as Amazon Aurora, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle β€” providing you with easy administration, availability and durability, performance and scalability, and security and compliance.
  • Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL compatibility fully leverages AWS services to give you 2-3x better throughput on the same instance sizes, scalability of up to 128 TiB, and highly-available durability and fault-tolerant storage across 3 availability zones.

🌟 Building Post-Quantum Cryptography for the Cloud

Alex Weibel β€” Senior Software Engineer, AWS Cryptography, AWS

Key lessons included:

  • Post-quantum cryptography is needed because the key agreement algorithms we use today will break given a quantum adversary and we don't know precisely when (or if) that will happen. We always need to be prepared.
  • It takes 10-15 years of work for algorithms to work their way from invention to standardization in the encryption space. The work being conducted now will curve the need to rush the development of encryption algorithms in the future.
  • AWS is already working on and promoting the use of hybrid key agreements in the ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute) and advocating for it in forums with NIST, as well as deploying hybrid post-quantum TLS to their most security-critical services, like AWS Key Management Services.

πŸ’­ What Was Your Favorite Session at re:Invent?

I'm curious to hear from others who attended re:Invent this year about what their favorite lessons learned were. From serverless app development to databases, AWS created multiple tracks to ensure that anyone, no matter their interests or backgrounds, could dive into the exciting world of serverless technology.

Let me know below or at @BrianHHough on social media what you enjoyed most about the past few weeks at AWS' re:Invent conference!

This article is written by Brian H. Hough (@brianhhough)

If you got value from this article, please LIKE πŸ‘, COMMENT πŸ“, and SHARE ↩️ this post with your network, as well as FOLLOW πŸ“² my Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts for further insights on technology, innovation, and our digital world.

Top comments (2)

starpebble profile image

Neat writeup. My feedback: it's a nice list of things at the top.

brianhhough profile image
Brian H. Hough

Hey @starpebble - thanks for checking out my article and for the feedback! I'm looking forward to diving into these topics more in the new year, so it's been great to hear from folks what they find most interesting in the ever expanding world of cloud and computation. Happy New Year! 🌟